Modifications to toxic CUG RNAs induce structural stability, rescue mis-splicing in a myotonic dystrophy cell model and reduce toxicity in a myotonic dystrophy zebrafish model.
ABSTRACT: CUG repeat expansions in the 3' UTR of dystrophia myotonica protein kinase (DMPK) cause myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1). As RNA, these repeats elicit toxicity by sequestering splicing proteins, such as MBNL1, into protein-RNA aggregates. Structural studies demonstrate that CUG repeats can form A-form helices, suggesting that repeat secondary structure could be important in pathogenicity. To evaluate this hypothesis, we utilized structure-stabilizing RNA modifications pseudouridine (?) and 2'-O-methylation to determine if stabilization of CUG helical conformations affected toxicity. CUG repeats modified with ? or 2'-O-methyl groups exhibited enhanced structural stability and reduced affinity for MBNL1. Molecular dynamics and X-ray crystallography suggest a potential water-bridging mechanism for ?-mediated CUG repeat stabilization. ? modification of CUG repeats rescued mis-splicing in a DM1 cell model and prevented CUG repeat toxicity in zebrafish embryos. This study indicates that the structure of toxic RNAs has a significant role in controlling the onset of neuromuscular diseases.
Project description:A working hypothesis for the pathogenesis of myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) involves the aberrant sequestration of an alternative splicing regulator, MBNL1, by expanded CUG repeats, r(CUG)(exp). It has been suggested that a reversal of the myotonia and potentially other symptoms of the DM1 disease can be achieved by inhibiting the toxic MBNL1-r(CUG)(exp) interaction. Using rational design, we discovered an RNA-groove binding inhibitor (ligand 3) that contains two triaminotriazine units connected by a bisamidinium linker. Ligand 3 binds r(CUG)12 with a low micromolar affinity (K(d) = 8 ± 2 ?M) and disrupts the MBNL1-r(CUG)12 interaction in vitro (K(i) = 8 ± 2 ?M). In addition, ligand 3 is cell and nucleus permeable, exhibits negligible toxicity to mammalian cells, dissolves MBNL1-r(CUG)(exp) ribonuclear foci, and restores misregulated splicing of IR and cTNT in a DM1 cell culture model. Importantly, suppression of r(CUG)(exp) RNA-induced toxicity in a DM1 Drosophila model was observed after treatment with ligand 3. These results suggest ligand 3 as a lead for the treatment of DM1.
Project description:Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is caused by the expansion of a CTG repeat in the 3' untranslated region of DMPK. The transcripts containing an expanded CUG repeat (CUG (exp)) result in a toxic gain-of-function by forming ribonuclear foci that sequester the alternative splicing factor muscleblind-like 1 (MBNL1). Although several small molecules reportedly ameliorate RNA toxicity, none are ready for clinical use because of the lack of safety data. Here, we undertook a drug-repositioning screen to identify a safe and effective small molecule for upcoming clinical trials of DM1.We examined the potency of small molecules in inhibiting the interaction between CUG (exp) and MBNL1 by in vitro sequestration and fluorescent titration assays. We studied the effect of lead compounds in DM1 model cells by evaluating foci reduction and splicing rescue. We also tested their effects on missplicing and myotonia in DM1 model mice.Of the 20 FDA-approved small molecules tested, erythromycin showed the highest affinity to CUG (exp) and a capacity to inhibit its binding to MBNL1. Erythromycin decreased foci formation and rescued missplicing in DM1 cell models. Both systemic and oral administration of erythromycin in the DM1 model mice showed splicing reversal and improvement of myotonia with no toxicity. Long-term oral administration of erythromycin at the dose used in humans also improved the splicing abnormality in the DM1 model mice.Oral erythromycin treatment, which has been widely used in humans with excellent tolerability, may be a promising therapy for DM1.
Project description:Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is an RNA dominant disease caused by expression of DM protein kinase (DMPK) transcripts that contain an expanded CUG repeat (CUG(exp)). The toxic mRNA localizes to nuclear foci and sequesters proteins involved in the regulation of alternative splicing, such as, muscleblind-like 1 (MBNL1). Here, we used synthetic short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) to target CUG repeats and test the concept that inhibiting the expression of CUG(exp) RNA can mitigate features of DM1 in transgenic mice. Intramuscular injection and electroporation of siRNA resulted in ~70-80% downregulation of CUG(exp) transcripts. A limited survey of endogenous mouse transcripts that contain nonexpanded CUG or CAG repeats showed that most were not affected, though Txlnb containing (CUG)(9) was significantly reduced. By this strategy, the number and intensity of CUG(exp) nuclear foci were reduced and splicing of MBNL1-dependent exons was improved. These data suggest that the expanded CUG repeats are a potential target for allele-selective RNA interference.
Project description:Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is caused by a CTG expansion within the 3'-untranslated region of the DMPK gene. The predominant mechanism of pathogenesis is a toxic gain of function of CUG repeat containing RNA transcribed from the expanded allele. The molecular mechanisms by which the RNA containing expanded repeats produce pathogenic effects include: sequestration of muscleblind-like 1 (MBNL1) protein and up-regulation of CUG binding protein 1 (CUGBP1). MBNL1 and CUGBP1 are RNA binding proteins that regulate alternative splicing transitions during development. Altered functions of these proteins in DM1 lead to misregulated splicing of their target genes, resulting in several features of the disease. The role of MBNL1 depletion in DM1 is well established through a mouse knock-out model that reproduces many disease features. Here we directly test the hypothesis that CUGBP1 up-regulation also contributes to manifestations of DM1. Using tetracycline-inducible CUGBP1 and heart-specific reverse tetracycline trans-activator transgenes, we expressed human CUGBP1 in adult mouse heart. Our results demonstrate that up-regulation of CUGBP1 is sufficient to reproduce molecular, histopathological and functional changes observed in a previously described DM1 mouse model that expresses expanded CUG RNA repeats as well as in individuals with DM1. These results strongly support a role for CUGBP1 up-regulation in DM1 pathogenesis.
Project description:Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is an autosomal dominant, CTG•CAG microsatellite expansion disease. Expanded CUG repeat RNA sequester the muscleblind-like (MBNL) family of RNA-binding proteins, thereby disrupting their normal cellular function which leads to global mis-regulation of RNA processing. Previously, the small molecule furamidine was shown to reduce CUG foci and rescue mis-splicing in a DM1 HeLa cell model and to rescue mis-splicing in the HSALR DM1 mouse model, but furamidine's mechanism of action was not explored. Here we use a combination of biochemical, cell toxicity, and genomic studies in DM1 patient-derived myotubes and the HSALR DM1 mouse model to investigate furamidine's mechanism of action. Mis-splicing rescue was observed in DM1 myotubes and the HSALR DM1 mouse with furamidine treatment. Interestingly, while furamidine was found to bind CTG•CAG repeat DNA with nanomolar affinity, a reduction in expanded CUG repeat transcript levels was observed in the HSALR DM1 mouse but not DM1 patient-derived myotubes. Further investigation in these cells revealed that furamidine treatment at nanomolar concentrations led to up-regulation of MBNL1 and MBNL2 protein levels and a reduction of ribonuclear foci. Additionally, furamidine was shown to bind CUG RNA with nanomolar affinity and disrupted the MBNL1 -CUG RNA complex in vitro at micromolar concentrations. Furamidine's likely promiscuous interactions in vitro and in vivo appear to affect multiple pathways in the DM1 mechanism to rescue mis-splicing, yet surprisingly furamidine was shown globally to rescue many mis-splicing events with only modest off-target effects on gene expression in the HSALR DM1 mouse model. Importantly, over 20% of the differentially expressed genes were shown to be returned, to varying degrees, to wild-type expression levels.
Project description:Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is an RNA-dominant disease caused by abnormal transcripts containing expanded CUG repeats. The CUG transcripts aggregate in the nucleus to form RNA foci and lead to nuclear depletion of Muscleblind-like 1 (MBNL1) and stabilized expression of CUGBP Elav like family 1 (CELF1), both of which are splicing regulatory proteins. The imbalance of these proteins results in misregulation of alternative splicing and neuromuscular abnormalities. Here, we report the use of antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) as a therapeutic approach to target the pathogenic RNA in DM1. We designed chimeric ASOs, termed gapmers, containing modified nucleic acid residues to induce RNase H-mediated degradation of CUG-repeat transcripts. The gapmers selectively knockdown expanded CUG transcripts and are sufficient to disrupt RNA foci both in cell culture and mouse models for DM1. Furthermore, combination of gapmers with morpholino ASOs that help release binding of MBNL1 to the toxic RNA can potentially enhance the knockdown effect. Additional optimization will be required for systemic delivery; however, our study provides an alternative strategy for the use of ASOs in DM1 therapy.
Project description:The common form of myotonic dystrophy (DM1) is associated with the expression of expanded CTG DNA repeats as RNA (CUG(exp) RNA). To test whether CUG(exp) RNA creates a global splicing defect, we compared the skeletal muscle of two mouse models of DM1, one expressing a CTG(exp) transgene and another homozygous for a defective muscleblind 1 (Mbnl1) gene. Strong correlation in splicing changes for approximately 100 new Mbnl1-regulated exons indicates that loss of Mbnl1 explains >80% of the splicing pathology due to CUG(exp) RNA. In contrast, only about half of mRNA-level changes can be attributed to loss of Mbnl1, indicating that CUG(exp) RNA has Mbnl1-independent effects, particularly on mRNAs for extracellular matrix proteins. We propose that CUG(exp) RNA causes two separate effects: loss of Mbnl1 function (disrupting splicing) and loss of another function that disrupts extracellular matrix mRNA regulation, possibly mediated by Mbnl2. These findings reveal unanticipated similarities between DM1 and other muscular dystrophies.
Project description:Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is caused by the expansion of noncoding CTG repeats in the dystrophia myotonica-protein kinase gene. Mutant transcripts form CUG hairpins that sequester RNA-binding factors into nuclear foci, including Muscleblind-like-1 protein (MBNL1), which regulate alternative splicing and gene expression. To identify molecules that target toxic CUG transcripts in vivo, we performed a positional scanning combinatorial peptide library screen using a Drosophila model of DM1. The screen identified a D-amino acid hexapeptide (ABP1) that reduced CUG foci formation and suppressed CUG-induced lethality and muscle degeneration when administered orally. Transgenic expression of natural, L-amino acid ABP1 analogues reduced CUG-induced toxicity in fly eyes and muscles. Furthermore, ABP1 reversed muscle histopathology and splicing misregulation of MBNL1 targets in DM1 model mice. In vitro, ABP1 bound to CUG hairpins and induced a switch to a single-stranded conformation. Our findings demonstrate that ABP1 shows antimyotonic dystrophy activity by targeting the core of CUG toxicity.
Project description:Myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1) is a rare multisystemic disorder associated with an expansion of CUG repeats in mutant DMPK (dystrophia myotonica protein kinase) transcripts; the main effect of these expansions is the induction of pre-mRNA splicing defects by sequestering muscleblind-like family proteins (e.g. MBNL1). Disruption of the CUG repeats and the MBNL1 protein complex has been established as the best therapeutic approach for DM1, hence two main strategies have been proposed: targeted degradation of mutant DMPK transcripts and the development of CUG-binding molecules that prevent MBNL1 sequestration. Herein, suitable CUG-binding small molecules were selected using in silico approaches such as scaffold analysis, similarity searching, and druggability analysis. We used polarization assays to confirm the CUG repeat binding in vitro for a number of candidate compounds, and went on to evaluate the biological activity of the two with the strongest affinity for CUG repeats (which we refer to as compounds 1-2 and 2-5) in DM1 mutant cells and Drosophila DM1 models with an impaired locomotion phenotype. In particular, 1-2 and 2-5 enhanced the levels of free MBNL1 in patient-derived myoblasts in vitro and greatly improved DM1 fly locomotion in climbing assays. This work provides new computational approaches for rational large-scale virtual screens of molecules that selectively recognize CUG structures. Moreover, it contributes valuable knowledge regarding two compounds with desirable biological activity in DM1 models.
Project description:Myotonic dystrophy Type 1 (DM1) is a rare genetic disease caused by the expansion of CTG trinucleotide repeats ((CTG)exp) in the 3' untranslated region of the DMPK gene. The repeat transcripts sequester the RNA binding protein Muscleblind-like protein 1 (MBNL1) and hamper its normal function in pre-mRNA splicing. Overexpressing exogenous MBNL1 in the DM1 mouse model has been shown to rescue the splicing defects and reverse myotonia. Although a viable therapeutic strategy, pharmacological modulators of MBNL1 expression have not been identified. Here, we engineered a ZsGreen tag into the endogenous MBNL1 locus in HeLa cells and established a flow cytometry-based screening system to identify compounds that increase MBNL1 level. The initial screen of small molecule compound libraries identified more than thirty hits that increased MBNL1 expression greater than double the baseline levels. Further characterization of two hits revealed that the small molecule HDAC inhibitors, ISOX and vorinostat, increased MBNL1 expression in DM1 patient-derived fibroblasts and partially rescued the splicing defect caused by (CUG)exp repeats in these cells. These findings demonstrate the feasibility of this flow-based cytometry screen to identify both small molecule compounds and druggable targets for MBNL1 upregulation.